EAST COUNTY — As a dancer, Marina Mercier’s life revolves around moving to the beat of someone else’s drum.
Her mother taught her how to dance when she was a toddler, and she hasn’t stopped since.
Today, the 21-year-old shares her passion with elementary- through high school-aged girls as head coach of the junior varsity and varsity dance teams at Braden River High School and an instructor at Silver Lightning Dance Co.
So, when Mercier saw an MRI scan showing a golf ball-sized tumor on her brain, one of her first thoughts was of her students and who would run practices and teach them their new routines before the Braden River High teams travel to a national competition in January.
“(The brain tumor) is more of an annoyance, really,” Mercier said. “I just want to be able to work with my teams. I hope I don’t keep them waiting too long.”
As she coordinates with the teams’ captains to generate dance routine ideas and instructs them on how to lead the teams in her absence, she also is taking her story public to raise money for her procedure. She started a virtual fundraiser on gofundme.com this month.
Gofundme is a website that allows individuals to perform “crowdfunding” — gathering donations by reaching the masses via the Internet.
To date, she has raised $530 of her $14,000 goal on gofundme.
The idea to use the crowdfunding method over more traditional fundraiser events, such as bake sales or car washes, stemmed from advice from friends who had used gofundme to help pay for their medical procedures. Mercier also said she uses the Internet daily, whether to check emails or connect with her friends through social media sites, such as Facebook.
“Fundraising online seems to be the best way to reach the most people,” Mercier said. “I’m not against trying other types of fundraising, this just made sense.”
On gofundme.com, participants create pages featuring photos and a description of the fundraiser — the basic information behind raising dollars for the specified purpose. The website tracks the individual’s progress toward the goal and shows the amount collected in the upper right corner of the page.
Donors contribute by clicking “donate” and entering the amount and credit card information into the appropriate fields.
Mercier’s page shows the X-rays of her brain and the acoustic neuroma with which she was diagnosed June 19. On Mercier’s site, she gives her audience a glimpse of her personality.
“I’m ready to get this thing out of my head,” Mercier wrote.
Mercier uses her Facebook account to direct social media friends to the page. The networking site has been her biggest asset in spreading awareness and asking for help thus far, she said.
Mercier also is selling black Team Marina adult- and children-sized T-shirts via booster.com. The cutoff date to order a $20 shirt is Aug. 7.
The full-time dance instructor’s condition is a benign and slow-growing tumor that develops on the main nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. Because of the tumor’s location, behind her right ear, there is an estimated 80% chance she will partially or completely lose her hearing.
She will have to spend three to 10 days in the hospital after surgery and two nights in the intensive care unit. Her insurance will cover the costs after the first $5,000 is spent, she said.
Mercier’s donations will go toward the hearing aid she may need after her surgery. Gofundme does not have a cutoff date for donations, so Mercier will continue collecting up until her surgery, which she has tentatively planned to do in mid-August.
As Mercier and her mother, Michele, continue searching for hospitals, they believe the best doctor to perform the surgery may be in California.
If so, the $14,000 Mercier hopes to raise through the website will go toward plane tickets and other travel expenses, she said.
With the surgery just weeks away, Mercier focuses her attention toward working with Braden River High dance captains to perfect routines to teach the dancers in the up to 12 weeks she may spend recovering.
“I’m just ready to get this surgery done and get back to dancing,” Mercier said. “I’m not worried about the surgery, I’m thinking more about my teams.”
To donate to Mercier’s fundraiser, visit gofundme.com/b5a21g.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at email@example.com.
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